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"Maggie, take the last of the casseroles out of the oven and place all the food on the table," instructed Charlie. "As soon as Uncle Jerome and your parents arrive, we'll start dinner. Oh, you might as well hand me the sausage and crackers. I'll take them in myself."

Maggie nodded, and handed the snack tray to Charlie.

"Make sure you use the oven mittens like I showed you," said Charlie, giving a last minute warning before she hobbled from the kitchen into the living room.

"Here's your hostess," announced Vera.

Jeff stood up out of politeness and took the tray from Charlie, setting it on the coffee table.

"Thank you for inviting us," he smiled.

"It was our pleasure," replied Charlie, sitting down.

"This is my Debbie," said Jeff, introducing his daughter to Charlie.

"Nice to meet you," said Charlie. "Please, help yourself to some sausage and crackers."

The front door opened and in walked Jerome, wearing his usual scowl.

"Uncle Jerome, this is Jeff Erickson and his daughter Debbie," said Charlie.

Jerome nodded and sat down on the sofa next to Vera. Debbie was quiet and ladylike; she was using her best company manners. Vera was starting to nod to sleep, and Chuck didn't know what to say. An awkward silence hung in the room.

"Dinner shouldn't be too much longer," said Charlie, secretly wondering how Maggie was doing in the kitchen.

A knock on the front door announced Mr. and Mrs. Downens' arrival.

"Maggie, your parents are here," called out Charlie. Maggie appeared from the kitchen and answered the door. As she walked by, Jeff gave her a smile that made Maggie blush.

"Hi, honey," said Mrs. Downen. "I'm sorry we're a little late."

"That's all right," said Maggie, proudly, "dinner is still hot. I just took the baked beans out of the oven. Wait till you see the turkey! And I set the table, too!"

Mrs. Downen gave her daughter a peculiar look. She had never taught Maggie how to cook or run a household. She assumed Maggie would never need to do either of these things for herself. It had been long ago determined, that in the event of Mr. and Mrs. Downens' death, that Maggie should be placed in a group home with others like herself. This was a side of Maggie that Mrs. Downen had never seen before.

"The idiot cooked dinner?" laughed Mr. Downen, his breath betraying the fact that he had had a few drinks before arriving. "This I gotta see!"

Mr. and Mrs. Downen were introduced to Chuck and Vera.

"Please," said Mrs. Downen, shaking Vera's hand, "call us Doug and Linda."

Jeff said his hellos, and introduced his daughter to Doug and Linda. As Charlie hobbled back into the kitchen, she overheard Linda ask Vera,

"Does she always limp like that? What happened?"

"Maggie," whispered Charlie, as her friend was about to carry the hot rolls to the living room table, "is everything ready?"

"Unless I forgot something, I think so," replied Maggie.

"Then as soon as you've placed all the food on the table, Daddy will say a Thanksgiving prayer, and then you seat everyone. Daddy sits at the head of the table, Vera to his right, and myself to his left. Seat your parents together, and Jeff and Debbie and yourself together. Put Jerome next to Vera. Can you remember that? Try to seat all the families together."

Maggie was excited. She nodded happily.

Soon it was time to eat. Before everyone sat down at the table, Chuck bowed his head and led the group in a prayer:

"Heavenly Father," began Chuck, "thank you for your unstinting faithfulness during the past year, and every year. Each day is a gift from You, so let us never take it for granted. As we look ahead, give us the courage to go forward and meet our destinies. As the psalmist said, 'So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.' In Christ's precious name, Amen."
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